It’s been a long day and you are returning home for the evening. You are approached by a knife wielding assailant walking across the front yard demanding your wallet and keys. You reach back for your trusty .45 Auto 1911 located just behind your hip to fend off this unwanted situation only to grasp nothing. You quickly remember how hot and muggy it was that morning, and you decided not to carry that heavy steel bulk and sweaty leather holster inside your waist band. Now what?
With so much focus in the United States being put on concealed carry rights, firearms manufacturers are flooding the market with guns of all sizes and calibers claiming to be best option. Growing trends of down sized 1911’s and Glock style handguns being purchased with the idea of every day carry. These firearms are proven and reliable indeed, but are they comfortable and convenient enough to have with you during your unknown time of need?
While experts agree the .22 caliber platform is probably not the best first option in self-defense, it does offer handy size firearms that may be easier to carry more often than larger calibers. When the chips are down and your life is in peril, it is obvious the $200 .22 revolver in your hand will always trump the $2500 Les Baer 1911 you left at home that day. This month’s review puts a spotlight on the term, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, with North American Arms Company and its little giant, the .22 LR mini-revolver.
History of North American Arms
Beginning in 1971 under the short lived name, Rocky Mountain Arms in Provo, Utah, the company immediately started pushing the realms of the revolver platform with designs from a legend in the firearm world, Dick Casull. Introducing the powerful single action hand cannon chambered for .450 Magnum Express, the company immediately turned around and released the world’s smallest production revolver in .22 Short with an overall length of 3.5 inches. Both revolvers got plenty of attention but failed to capture the mainstream buyers. The company managed to change ownership over the next couple of decades a few times, ending up under the Talley Manufacturing umbrella of the aerospace industry.
Under the leadership of company president, Sandy Chisholm, North American Arms has managed to find a niche in the industry with their mini-revolvers. With a strong focus on craftsmanship and backing every firearm by a “No Hassle” – Lifetime Warranty, North America Arms rose up through Rocky Mountain Arms’ ashes. While remaining in Provo, the company did expand by moving to a larger nearby factory.
The review sample I originally received on loan was from a vast private collection. The stainless steel finish was clean and smooth except for an arching scar on either side of the frame. According to the owner, this pistol used to have an oversized plastic grip which allowed the pistol to be folded and carried similar to a tactical folding pocket knife. Regardless of the scar, I was impressed with the seamless fit of the side plate that was more like a fine watch than a production pistol. The lack of a trigger guard was the first noticeable difference than a normal pistol frame. Its small stud like trigger slightly protrudes from the frame requiring only 1/8 of an inch travel to fire. Weighing in at only 4.5 ounces, with a total overall length of 4 inches, height of 2 3/8 inches and width of 13/16 of an inch, one would be hard pressed to see this pistol as a viable defensive tool. By the end of the year in which passed on working with this and other projects, I ended up with the pistol coming into my permanent possession through a smart bit of “horse trading.”
During inspection of this sample, I recalled two memories from my days as a Deputy Sheriff in North Carolina of just what sort of stopping power this little pistol can generate.
Case 1: As a young officer, I responded to a biker bar in a small one horse town in reference to a fight. Upon arrival, I noticed two large men in excess of 250 lbs. each in the parking lot surrounded by 4 or 5 spectators. One was lying face down on the pavement by his motorcycle and the other was propped up by a NO PARKING sign lightly breathing. The story from witnesses went like this. A small framed man who was notorious in that area for getting drunk, doing drugs, and causing problems, got into an argument with another bar patron. In the process of a bouncer trying to escort the man out of the bar, things got out of control and several people joined into the affray. The small framed drunk man pulled a NAA .22 mini revolver from his shirt, fired two shots close range at the bouncer and another gentleman before running out of the parking area to a nearby trailer park to hide. Both victims were deceased within an hour of the fight.
Case 2: A fellow officer and friend whom I competed against at SWAT competitions also served as a patrol supervisor for his department. One night while on patrol, the officer came upon a domestic violence situation in the parking lot of his gas station. The male suspect was high on cocaine and in the middle of beating his girlfriend inside their vehicle. As the officer approached the vehicle and announced himself, the suspect sprang from the car without a word and began attacking the officer. Taken by surprise, the officer lost his balance and ended up with the suspect on top of him. Immediately, the officer noticed suspect was attempting to remove his duty weapon from its holster. As they wrestled for control of the firearm, the officer attempted to reach for his Glock backup gun located on his ankle. Due to the position both men were entangled in vying for position to gain leverage on the main duty weapon, the officer could not reach his ankle. The officer reached in his uniform shirt pocket and removed a NAA .22 mini revolver and shot his attacker 3 times until the fight was over.
Knowing the potential of the NAA mini-revolver, it was time to have a go at this little power house for myself. Due to the unique size and features of the firearm, the learning curve of the NAA mini-revolver is slightly steeper than its larger counterparts. I had the owner of the test sample personally walk me through its paces to have a safe and efficient range day. Just packing up eye and ear protection along with the revolver and ammo, I felt odd heading off to world renowned private training grounds affectionately known as “The Swamp” with a much smaller than normal kit.
The unique loading of the revolver would be the first task upon my arrival. Beginning with the cylinder pin, there is a small push button located on the end of it just under the barrel’s muzzle. By depressing the push button, the cylinder pin can be removed. With a small rearward motion of the hammer, it can be set on a half cock setting that renders the revolver safe as well allows for the cylinder to be removed. Once the cylinder is out, 5 rounds of ammunition can be loaded into its tiny chambers. On recommendation by the gun’s owner, my fodder of choice for today would be a few boxes of CCI Mini-Mag 40 grain ammunition. During reloads, the cylinder pin is designed to be used to punch out empty casings. Next, the cylinder can be installed into the frame, lining it up to reinsert the cylinder pin back into place. The hammer can be then set fully cocked to fire. This leads us to the second unique feature of this firearm, shooting it.
Given the NAA mini-revolver’s size compared to the average size shooters hand, a traditional firing grip has to be modified to safely discard the firearm. Starting by taking the gun in the strong hand, you must focus your grip using your middle finger deeply wrapped around the smooth birds head grip of the frame. Using your other fingers, the hand forms more of a “pinch” instead of a true grip around the grip leaving your trigger finger along the side of the cylinder and the thump resting on the top of the hammer. With your support hand, you encompass your strong hand, paying close attention to allow enough room at the top for the cylinder to freely turn. As you tighten your support hand grip, make sure it is far enough back of the cylinder gap to not get burned during firing.
Since this mission of this mini-revolver is to provide a “last ditch” self-defense option, the shooting distance focused on an “up close and personal” range of approximately 5 yards. Using the gun’s low profile blade style front site and rear site notch, I was pleasantly surprised by the accuracy performance overall all. Once I became comfortable with the 1/8 of an inch straight rearward motion of the 4.6lb trigger pull, most of my shots were able to be held on a standard playing card taped to my target. Recoil was very manageable with very little muzzle climb as it was nestled between my hands. One down side to this firearm due to its diminutive size is a tendency to subconsciously want to over-squeeze your grip. This causes both hand fatigue and poor shooting performance.
Let’s face it, personal defense is a close range, messy affair that requires being ended as safely, decisively and quickly as possible. The best option in my opinion is to always carry the largest weapon you would never leave home without. If I knew I was getting into a gun fight at Walmart tomorrow, I wouldn’t go. I’d keep my butt at home safely with my family and let someone else deal with that problem. If I HAD to go, I’d take a rifle and a few friends with rifles, maybe even a tank if I knew someone with a hook up for one. (If you DO have a hook up for a tank, please contact me.)
Since I don’t have a crystal ball, I never know when I may need a firearm. Due to the fact I live in Florida, the home of the 80 degree winters and 100 degree summers, my daily attire of khaki shorts and button-down shirts limits what I can carry concealed. Some days, it’s a Glock 19 9mm carried inside the waist band, other days, it’s a Glock 42 .380 in a pocket holster. Regardless of what I carry, the NAA .22 LR revolver makes a great backup to my primary carry gun. Combined with a custom Kydex holster from my good friend, John Phillips at Survivor Creek Tactical, I can easily carry the mini-revolver in several different was using the integrated UltiClip. In the winter, the gun rides inside the top of my Ariat cowboy boot and in the summer, it fits perfectly inside the waistband of my shorts opposite of my Glock 19 riding on my strong side. It may look silly to some, but at the end of the day silly is a fair trade off to staying alive!
After an afternoon of taming the little revolver, it was time to clean it up and get it ready to return back to the owner’s collection. With a removable cylinder and short 1.12 inch barrel, the stainless steel frame was a breeze. It only took a few minutes to give the entire pistol a complete cleaning. Once the revolver is spotless and shiny with its deep rosewood grips, it’s easy to see why collectors are so fond of these neat little guns.
As far as performance, it amazes me, something smaller than a good carry knife has been used to end dangerous confrontations such as struggling for officer survival or ending the fight of a 600lb alligator in the swamps of Louisiana. After my experience shooting one for myself, I can say the option of a fast reload does not exist due to the slow process of removing the cylinder. The upside to this drawback is given the revolver’s size, 2 or 3 of them could be easily carried with no problem. The trigger pull is very heavy and the overall pistol design does not lend itself to bullseye shooting at 15 yards. With that being said, the purpose of this pistol is to be deployed at no more than the distance across a table at “bar room speed” in which gross motor skills could easily put the NAA pistol on a human size target 5 out of 5 shots with no problem.
More realistically, my final thoughts on the mini-revolver is more along the lines of a back-up to your back-up weapon or a deep concealed second option for when you carry your prized 1911. With a MSRP of $226, I have seen the NAA .22LR commonly sell for around $200 new and roughly $180 in used condition. Combined with a small, inexpensive holster with a simple clip, the NAA pistol can be easily concealed inside the waist band of a lady’s yoga pants, an officer’s tactical boot or even in that small pocket commonly found above the right front pocket of your favorite jeans that nobody knows what the hell it’s for.
In wrapping up our look this week at the .22 LR Mini- Revolver from North American Arms, I’ll leave you with this thought: The day you may skip carrying any weapon at all, may just very well be your last!